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6 takeaways from the weekend in college football

Indiana head coach Tom Allen fires ups his team before the first half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan State, Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in East Lansing, Mich. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)
AP

Week 11 of the 2020 college football season was far from the most dramatic one we’ve seen, but it certainly was funky, thanks in large part to, naturally for this year, COVID-19.

Six games involving Top 25 teams were either postponed or outright canceled, including three involving top 5 squads, leaving the slate pretty bare for high-quality ball.

Nevertheless, here are six takeaways from the week.

There may not be much change in the rankings this week, especially in the top 10

Because of a combo of the aforementioned cancellations/postponements and byes, there were only 13 games this week featuring teams ranked in The Associated Press Top 25, and none involved two ranked teams. Last week, for comparison, there were 18 games involving Top 25 teams, four of which featured two ranked ones.

Of the 13 ranked teams that played this week, 12 won, with only 19th-ranked SMU losing. Within the top 10, only five squads played, and only one of them, 9th-ranked Miami, came close to losing (it beat Virginia Tech by a point, 25-24).

Voters could get crazy, but it stands to reason that with so few games (No. 1 Alabama, No. 3 Ohio State and No. 5 Texas A&M were among the teams to have games postponed or canceled) and no real impactful upsets, the rankings will likely stay largely the same.

The Pac-12 appears to be both wild and wide open

The days leading up to Saturday’s action were crazy for the Pac-12 Conference, as two of the league’s six games this week — Utah-UCLA and Cal-Arizona State — were canceled before UCLA and Cal threw together a game Friday afternoon that will be played Sunday morning at the Rose Bowl (here’s a reminder that a bunch of teams around the country have games scheduled a decade! out. UCLA and Cal put one together less than 48 hours in advance).

On the field, the four Pac-12 games that were played Saturday were all good ones, even if they provided few answers as far as a pecking order in the conference goes.

No. 11 Oregon’s 14-point win over Washington State was the largest margin of the four games, but Oregon was up by just two entering the fourth quarter and it was a one-touchdown game until Oregon scored with less than two minutes to play. The Ducks also trailed 19-7 in the first half.

Oregon linebacker Noah Sewell, right, tackles Washington State running back Deon McIntosh during the second half of an NCAA college football game in Pullman, Wash., Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020. Oregon won 43-29.
Young Kwak, Associated Press

Elsewhere, No. 20 USC scored in the waning moments for the second week in a row to get a comeback victory, Colorado fended off Stanford to win by three and Washington beat Oregon State by six in a close and somewhat controversial game.

Oregon would have to be considered at the top of the conference at this point, but after that? It’s a whole lot of uncertainty still.

Boise State might have proven that BYU is indeed good

Last week, the talk in Utah was how then-No. 9 BYU Cougars’ game against the then-No. 21 Boise State Broncos would be a great measuring stick for the Cougars, as their schedule to that point had been incredibly soft.

BYU then went on the road and beat Boise State by 34 points, but many people were quick to mention that the Broncos played three quarterbacks in the contest, none of which were usual starter Hank Bachmeier.

On Thursday with Bachmeier back, however, Boise State stomped all over the Colorado State Rams and ultimately won 52-21. It’s still somewhat to be determined how good the now 1-2 Rams are, but it was an emphatic enough win to show that the Broncos are very good when at full strength, which should be a help to BYU’s legitimacy.

Is another independent challenging the Cougars?

For all the success independent BYU has had up to this point, there’s another conference-less team that’s been strong.

Liberty wide receiver CJ Daniels (4) scores a touchdown past Western Carolina Safety A.J. Rogers (4) during the first half of an NCAA football game on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020, in Lynchburg, Va.
Shaban Athuman, Associated Press

No. 22 Liberty beat Western Carolina 58-14 on Saturday to join the Cougars at 8-0. Like BYU, Liberty has played some weak, low-level opponents, but it has also beaten two Power Five ones, Syracuse and Virginia Tech. Syracuse is a bad ACC team, sure, but Virginia Tech is pretty decent.

Liberty gets another Power Five opponent on Saturday in the ACC’s NC State (5-3), then a game against bad fellow independent UMass. A fun regular-season finale is shaping up for Dec. 5 when Liberty plays No. 15 Coastal Carolina.

The Big Ten is weird

It’s hard to imagine a world where Indiana has more wins than Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Nebraska four weeks into the season. Not only is that the case, but Indiana has more wins (four) than those four teams do combined (three).

2020, people!

No. 10 Indiana beat Michigan State 24-0 on Saturday, while Michigan lost by 38 to No. 13 Wisconsin and Nebraska had the gift of being able to play Penn State to get its first win of the year (remember when Penn State started the season ranked No. 8 in the country and lost to Indiana by a point in overtime in the first week and everyone thought it was a big upset? Good times).

No. 3 Ohio State is still surely the class of the conference, but after its game against Maryland on Saturday was canceled, it’ll play Indiana next Saturday in a true measuring stick game, especially for the Hoosiers.

Utah State looked a little better under Frank Maile...but just a little

It’s common in sports for teams to get a jolt of positivity when their coach gets fired midseason, and for a little while on Saturday, it appeared that might be the case for Utah State against Fresno State in its first game after Gary Andersen was fired last weekend.

Utah State Aggies running back Devonta’e Henry-Cole (7) runs against the Fresno State Bulldogs in Logan on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020.
Utah State Aggies running back Devonta’e Henry-Cole (7) runs against the Fresno State Bulldogs in Logan on Saturday, Nov. 14, 2020.
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News

Utah State led 13-7 at the end of the first quarter with Frank Maile replacing Andersen, but then got outscored 28-3 the rest of the way to move to 0-4 on the season. The second half of the campaign is going to be about just making it through for Utah State while athletic director John Hartwell searches for a permanent head coach.

Elsewhere in the Mountain West Conference, San Jose State is becoming a fun story. The Spartans, who haven’t finished a season .500 or better since going 6-6 in 2013, are 4-0 after beating UNLV 34-17. It’s their first 4-0 start since 1955!